Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No More Crumbs

To say that the beach is my favorite place in the world would be a profound understatement.

I love all the sights, smells and sounds of the surf, but most importantly, I treasure the sweet feeling of closeness to God that warms my heart as I fully immerse myself in the beauty of His creation.

During a recent vacation,  I arose early and set out for the beach to watch the sun rise. As I sat on the sand, soaking in the peacefulness of the morning and listening to the gentle sound of the waves lapping the shore, I watched a few seagulls aimlessly wandering around the beach. I began to wonder why there were so few - especially considering that they are normally swarming overhead in loud, annoying flocks.

Then it dawned on me that they had no reason to be on the beach - because there were no people around to generate any crumbs.

I'm pretty sure that seagulls can smell a potato chip crumb a mile away. I could be sitting peacefully on the beach without a seagull in sight, and if one kid throws a piece of crust from their sandwich into the sand, suddenly dozens of seagulls come swooping down from out of nowhere like a scene in that awful old movie called The Birds.

I thought about how seagulls always stay at a distance, until they think that someone has something they want, then they come running - or should I say - dive bombing.  I chuckled as I thought about some past times when seagulls have interrupted our picnics at the beach, but my reminiscing was interrupted when I felt God whisper to my spirit that sometimes, I am just like those seagulls. 

Somewhat confused at the thought, I began to ponder what God may have meant, and during my prayer time, I slowly began to understand.

There are times when I may go several days, maybe weeks, aimlessly wandering like seagulls on a deserted beach. Flying through my daily routines, never really sitting down and talking with God in focused prayer, much less digging into scripture.

But, have mercy, as soon as something happens that makes me mad, sad, worried, frustrated, discouraged or upset - I go flying straight over to God; swooping in out of nowhere, dive bombing into His presence. I expectantly wait for Him to give me a profound thought or answer to prayer, in essence, to toss me some crumbs of spiritual nourishment.

How it must disappoint God for me to settle for 'spiritual crumbs' on an as-needed basis, rather than enjoy the buffet of delicious spiritual morsels, divine guidance and supernatural intervention that is always within my reach.

Matthew 6:11 says "Give us today our daily bread" in the NIV Bible and in the NLT it reads this way, "Give us today the food we need,".  God knows that we need spiritual food that only He can give - and that we need His nourishment daily. When we choose to do without, our souls will hunger.

Unlike a seagull who only seeks temporary satisfaction from random crumbs, I long to be consumed with a spiritual hunger that is never satisfied with crumbs from God.  A hunger that pains me if I fail to get my daily portion of His wisdom, blessings, comfort, love and guidance. A hunger that when filled by God, replaces my feelings of emptiness, unworthiness, discouragement or discontentment.

Have you been putting God on the back burner, and then dive bombing for spiritual crumbs when life gets rough?  If so, this would be a great day to turn from your seagull mentality, to one that is focused on getting a daily portion of God, and being filled with as much as your spiritual tummy can hold. 

I simply do not want to be satisfied with mere crumbs! I want the whole basket of spiritual goodies, because I know that when my heart and mind are filled with God, my life will be filled with joy.

What about you?

** The winner of the $10 Starbucks card from the Marketing Ebook signups is an email that begins with dhthompson@xxx.net. If this is you, please email me your full name and address.**

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Friday, May 25, 2012

How To Get Your Daily Portion Of God

A few years ago, I was tired of making excuses for not knowing, or understanding, God's Word. Although I had completed many bible studies on specific books of the Bible or biblical characters, I had always wanted to read the Bible in it's entirety. However, I never thought it was possible for someone like me.

Someone who had tried in the past, but had easily gotten bored, discouraged or too busy.  Someone who didn't consider herself a Bible scholar. Someone who wondered how anyone could possibly read that huge intimating book, including all the chapters about genealogy, lineage, temple building and sacrifices. Someone who could hardly make it halfway through the first few chapters of the Bible, much less 66 books.

But the time came when I was fed up with my own excuses, frustrated at my lack of overall knowledge of God's truths, and sometimes embarrassed when someone asked me the answer to a spiritual question that I felt I should know. So I began to pray for God to help me get to know Him in a new and deeper way, and learn how to apply His promises and instruction to my every day life.

Then my church began a new small group class whose purpose was to read the Bible in one year, by using the NLT Chronological Bible. With hesitation and anticipation, I jumped right in. Then I prayed again - for the willingness to persevere, the ability to understand and for a passionate desire to dig into God's Word every day.

365 days later, I had completed my goal - and I was ready to do it all over again. You see, for the first time, I had a glimpse of the bigger picture of God's story. Not just popular bible verses, childhood stories, or important biblical characters - but the story of God.  I now want to open God's Word each day with excitement, instead of obligation because I have realized the importance of getting a daily portion of God, just as I talked about in today's Proverbs 31 devotion

I am the first to admit that reading the Bible daily readings as they are arranged in the Chronological Bible, or in any yearly Bible reading schedule, can easily become a job instead of a joy - or a chore instead of a spiritual challenge - even with the best of intentions.  But when we truly embrace the fact that reading the Bible is a face to face encounter with our heavenly Father, that is something to get excited about!

My pastor once stated from the pulpit, that when we go to open God's Word, we should say "OH MY! I AM ABOUT TO MEET WITH GOD!" I loved that!  :)

He also gave the example that if we saw an email in our inbox that was delivered from God, we would eagerly open it with great excitement. We would not wait, put it on the back burner, allow it to sit there idly, or procrastinate about it. We would open it immediately!

In essence, the Bible is really an email from God, quietly sitting there, waiting for us to open it every day. An email chocked full of vital, life giving information that we desperately need.

The key to getting a daily portion of God, resulting in spiritual growth and deeper Bible study, is choosing to open up that 'email' - and discover the truths and promises within.

My sweet friend Wendy Pope is who inspired me a few years ago to read the entire Bible, and she was the leader of the year long bible study that I participated in. She encouraged our class to keep a daily journal and pull out something old and something new from each passage that we read, along with jotting down all of our notes, thoughts and prayers. She also challenged us to always find one nugget of truth that we could apply to our lives from each day's readings.

The journal that I kept during those 365 days is now a priceless treasure to me. It not only holds deep truths of God that I would have never known, but also precious memories of my daily encounters with God, and each whisper that He spoke to my spirit.

Another great idea for reading the Bible which my pastor offered, helped me dig even deeper into God's Word the following year. He suggested we ask ourselves these five questions each day as we went through the daily chronological readings:

1. Is there a promise to believe in the passage you are reading?
2. Is there a sin to avoid?
3. Is there something about God to learn?
4. Is there a timeless principle to apply?
5. How should I pray in regards to this scripture?

Don't you just love those questions?! They really make you think!

It is so easy to read a passage of scripture, or a daily reading in our bible schedule, and check it off our to-do list without really trying to apply it to our lives or asking God to make the Words come alive. Yet,  when we delve into the meaning of the readings by answering these thought provoking questions, the windows of our heart are opened so that God's voice can be heard loud and clear.

Psalm 119:97-104 says:

Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are my constant guide. Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your laws. I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept your commandments. I have refused to walk on any evil path, so that I may remain obedient to your word.  I haven’t turned away from your regulations, for you have taught me well.  How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life.


We are to treasure God's Word, and deem it sweeter than honey to our lip, and through a daily portion, He will use His Words to shape our faith, heart, mind and life. Only then can we truly experience the reality of God in our life, and maybe for the very first time.

-- Click here for information about how to order your copy of the NLT Chronological Bible--


Special Idea:
Think it will be too hard to remember these 5 questions each day? Make your own Bible reading journal!
*Choose landscape format in a Word document.
*Create two large text boxes on the left and right hand side of the document
*At the top of each textbox, insert a line for the date, and a line to record the main scripture or chapters for the day.
*Type up these five questions above in a textbox, evenly spaced out, on the left side of the paper, then copy and paste them into the right side text box.
*Print off 183 copies, cut them in half, and bind them together in a binder or spiral bound notebook.
*Now you have your own personalized journal, ready to go! 


(Or search 'bible reading journal' online for a variety of websites which offer free schedules)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Encouragement For Investing In Yourself

Do you have a ministry that God has called you to, 
but you're not sure how to let people know about it?

Do you ever worry about marketing yourself or your ministry, 
for fear of overstepping God's will?

Has God called you to share His Word, or be His hands and feet, 
in a special and unique way but you need a little guidance about how to get the ball rolling? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have a special treat for you!

I am a featured guest today over at WomensMinistry.net  and if you hop over to their site and check, you can watch my "5 Minute How-To" video called How To Develop A Ministry Marketing Strategy.

You will also have the opportunity to download my Listening Guide for the video, in addition to a free giveaway I have provided called 30 Ways To Market Your Ministry

Lastly, if you sign up to receive updates on my marketing Ebook (in the second white box found on the right hand sidebar of my blog under Marketing Your Ministry updates), you will be entered into a random drawing for a $10 Starbucks gift card! Drawing will be held on May 30th, to allow everyone a chance to participate.

Please note that if you subscribe for Ebook updates, you will only receive a few select emails regarding Ebook updates and purchase availability in the coming months.

But if you would also like to subscribe to my blog and receive my weekly posts, then enter your email address in the blue box on the right hand side bar. You will receive a request for confirmation email, so please make sure it doesn't get caught in your spam folder!

I am so excited to have the opportunity through my partnership with WomensMinistry.net to help you gain confidence and insight into how to take an amazing leap of faith and begin investing in your divine calling!

I pray that this marketing information will encourage you to begin thinking about what God might be calling you to do and give you that extra dose of motivation that your heart has been needing.






 



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Friday, May 11, 2012

Does The "Golden Rule" Trump God's Word?

I heard his statement on the news shortly after voting for Amendment One in North Carolina which clarified that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman. Thankfully this law passed in NC but protests and rebuttals are sure to follow, especially in light of the President's national statement claiming that he now supports same sex marriage.

However, what bothered me more than his actual statement was that he justified his decision by referring to not only his faith in Christ, but because that faith compelled him to follow the "golden rule".

As his words spun in my mind, I tried to comprehend the confusing logic that he was using to justify his new stance on this subject. My thoughts wrestled with one another as I tried to make sense of his comment and decipher if the golden rule, although extremely important, really trumps God's Word.   Should God's definition of marriage get tossed around the window, under the guise of the "golden rule"?

So my fingers got to typing as I did a little research about the golden rule, and my findings confirmed my suspicions.

Although the golden rule is usually associated with Christianity, many other religions have their own versions of it including Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and more. In fact, one website listed the "golden rules" for 21 world religions, all of which were founded on a verse or statement in their bible or religious resource implying that people should treat others as they wish to be treated.

There are also people who live by this philosophy of the "golden rule", without ever associating themselves with any specific faith at all.  Everyone, whether they are atheists, agnostics, or members of an organized religion, live by some sort of "golden rule", or moral code.

For Christians, we base our "golden rule" on Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets".   But the stark difference between other religious versions, and the Christian version, is that it states that a Christian's actions should be a sum of The Law.  Not an exception to the Law if the circumstances seem to warrant it, but the sum of it.

A Christian's actions, decisions and behaviors are meant to be guided by God's biblical truths alone, not by feelings or popular consensus.  To be guided by the rules set forth by the One who created us, not merely by a conscience molded by the world's ever-changing view of right and wrong.

You see, the purpose of one's conscience is to help us establish between good and evil, but it doesn't determine what is good and evil, or right from wrong. Only God can do that.

We hear the golden rule reiterated again in the Bible in Mark 12:31a, which says "The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' " I totally one hundred percent agree! We are all called to love our 'neighbors' as ourselves, fueled by the love of Christ. We are also commanded in Matthew 7 to not judge others, lest we be judged ourselves; to not look at the plank in another person's eye when we have a log in our own; and to remember that anyone who seeks the Kingdom of God will receive it, despite their sin, or the type of relationships they choose. 

We are all sinners, in need of forgiveness and redemption. And although our sins may vary greatly, we should always offer grace and acceptance to all people, while hoping to receive it in return. 

However, the commandment in Mark 12:30 has to be obeyed first, before we can obey Mark 12:31. Mark 12:30 says "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."   

Our first commandment is to love God above all else.... above our feelings, above our conscience, above what is politically correct, above what other people think or want, and above the influences of a society based on self, not God. To love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, so that our every thought and action will be captive to His opinion of right and wrong, and good and evil - instead of our own.

We are first called to love God, and then called to love our neighbors. The first commandment equips us spiritually to carry out the second commandment. God put them in that order on purpose, and for a purpose.

The golden rule is usually considered a matter of conscience, regardless of faith. But as devoted Christians, who believe that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16), we are to be guided not merely by our conscience of a golden rule, but by The Law.   God's Law.

All people should be treated equally and fairly, with love, kindness, respect, dignity, acceptance and understanding. But our conscience is not the trump card that can override God's truth. Instead, His truth is the standard to which all of our consciences should be aligned - regardless of the matter at hand.

It is not enough to claim to believe the gospel - we also must actually apply it in our lives - even in the hardest of decisions when the "golden rule" is pushing us to support the world's ways, instead of God's.

Truth is, God's Word, The Law, is sovereign, and nothing has ever, or will ever, trump it. 


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

5 Ways To Handle Anger In A Biblical Way

I pray that if you have been struggling with anger in your life, and spent the last couple days meditating on the verses I shared on Monday, that your heart has been softened and prepared to begin tackling this uncomfortable issue.

Handling anger is an important topic. Anger is so common place that we often accept is as the normal. Practically every day we see people getting angry - in traffic, in stores, on security camera video clips on the news, in movies, and maybe even in our homes.

I have had two women in the past week share with me that their husband is emotionally abusive due to the anger that he deals with every day, and I know there are countless other people living in hostile environments.

I also recently read that Christian counselors report that 50% of people who come in for counseling have problems dealing with anger.  And a website I came across stated that over 60% of people lose their temper at least once per week.

So what do we do?!  How we can not only overcome extreme bitterness in our heart that resulted from being hurt or betrayed,  but also learn to avoid losing our temper over all the daily things that agitate us?

Below are 5 ways to begin looking at anger differently, and handling it in a way that pleases God.
(Bible verses are all from The Message Bible translation.)

1. Before letting anger erupt, remember that God works through trials.  Think about how God would have you handle the situation, so that when people see your true colors, they are beautiful and not something to be ashamed of. Consider how He might be maturing you in your faith, and pray for Him to work in you, through the challenge
   
    James 1:2-4 (MSG)  Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from
    all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true
    colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature
    and well-developed, not deficient in any way

2. Let God do His job, instead of trying to do it for Him. When we have been hurt or wronged, we want the one who brought us pain, to feel pain themselves. We want to shun them, give them the silent treatment, or hurt them with words. We want to somehow get back at them for what they have done, after all, they deserve it.  But if there is one thing I know, God is a righteous and just God, and we can always trust that He knows what is going on and He will see to it that justice takes place.

    
    Romans 12:19 Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with
    everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God.
    "I'll take care of it." 

3. Don't keep it all inside - talk it out.  The longer we hold our anger in, the more agitated it can become, so when it erupts, the outcome will always be ugly.  Talk to God about your feelings, and talk to someone you trust who can support in your desire to let your anger go.
    
    Ephesians 4:26 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don't use your anger as fuel
    for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold
    in your life. 

4. If you can't change the person or circumstance which has angered you..... change yourself.  Anyone can return evil for evil.... but it takes a courageous person in Christ to allow love to flow from our hearts instead of hatred. Even if your mind wants to take revenge, talk to God about helping you have the willpower to offer forgiveness. It might not change the external problem, but it will change your internal ability to handle the situation. 
   
    Psalm 107:19-20 Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; he got you out in the
    nick of time. He spoke the word that healed you, that pulled you back from the brink of death.

5. Remember that no matter how justified we feel in our anger,; no matter how hopeless a situation seems; and no matter how or agitating, a situation may be - God is always there to help us deal with our anger in the right way. 
    
    1 Corinthians 10:13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what 
    others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never
    let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.

So to make it sound easier - let's break it down into 5 easy steps:

* Remember God has a plan.
* Let Him do His job. 
* Talk it out (with Him, and others)
* Change what you can change. 
* Remember God is your helper. 

If you have struggled with anger, in big ways or small ways, my prayer is that you will tuck these 5 steps into your heart and let them start becoming a habit, as you focus on dealing with each situation in this way. 

If you do not struggle with anger, the likelihood is that you know someone who does, and possibly whose family is suffering because of it. Pray about forwarding this week's posts to them.

Overcoming ungodly anger won't happen overnight, but if we turn our emotions over to God and rely on His strength, it can happen.

I've heard it takes 21 days for a habit to form -  today could be the first of that twenty one.





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Monday, May 7, 2012

7 Ways To Know When Anger Is Sin

Everybody gets angry from time to time, because anger is a completely normal human emotion.

But when our anger gets out of our control, begins to rule our life, or turns destructive - it becomes a problem, and a sin. If ignored, it can cause difficulties in our marriages, relationships, at our workplaces and in our every day life.

Being angry in and of itself is not a sin. In fact, there are many instances in the Bible when anger is approved of, and even called "righteous indignation".  For example, Psalm 7:11 says "God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day."  God is righteously angry - not at the people - but at the actions of the people and the damaging effects they have on others.  

Another example is Mark 3:5 which says "He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored."  Jesus was frustrated, discouraged, heartbroken and even angered that the people were more worried about what day of the week it was, than seeing a person healed of their disability. They only cared about rules, not hearts, and Jesus was righteously angered at this.

It seems that the underlying factor for righteous anger is when anger is in defense or support of a biblical principle and serves to better a situation or a person, not in defense or support or our own motives trying to push our own agendas. 

There are many other examples in the Bible about righteous anger, from God and from people, but the majority of the time, the strong emotions of anger that we feel could not be labeled as righteous - no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves that they are. 

As I mentioned in today's Proverbs 31 devotion, I recently came face to face with the reality that my anger was causing me to live in sin and was stealing my joy. Only when I quit trying to convince myself that my anger was justified, was God able to work in my heart, repair relationships, and turn everything around for His good. 
 
So when does anger become sin? How do we know if we are righteously angry, or sinfully angry?

Below are 7 ways to know when our anger is sinful: 

1. When the reason for being angry is selfishly motivated. 
     James 1:20  "because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires"

2.  When being angry is not glorifying God or defending His name.
     1 Corinthians 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of  
      God.

3. When anger goes on for so long, that it gives the devil a foothold in your heart. 
     Ephesians 4:26b-27 Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the
     devil a foothold. 

4. When anger is so volatile, that it begins to bring emotional or physical harm to others. 
     Psalm 37:8  Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to
     harm.

5. When anger causes us to hold grudges against people with the intent of making them suffer.
     Ephesians 4:31Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types
     of evil behavior.  

6. When anger makes us unwilling to forgive, and consumed with revenge. 
     Ephesians 4:32  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God
     through Christ has forgiven you.

7. When we hold on so tightly to our anger, that we begin to feel depressed and irritable, often
     erupting over small insignificant things.
      Hebrews 12:15  Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch
      out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. 

According to a recent post by Gotquestions.org, there are two Greek words which are used in the New Testament for our English word "anger". The first definition means "passion,energy", and the second means "agitated, boiling".  This site also stated that "Biblically, anger is God-given energy intended to help us solve problems."  Being angry does require energy, but if this energy is boiling with anger and focused on attacking a person, instead of a situation, then destruction of various sorts is sure to occur. 

In some cases, anger might be nothing more than feeling a little miffed about a situation. But in other cases, anger can turn deadly.  Unfortunately, anger is the root cause of many violent situations, causing people to get so agitated that they kill someone in a fit of rage. 

However, in most cases, anger kills relationships, damages self esteem, steals joy, shatters communications, inflicts emotional damage, and creates a barrier between us and God.. 

Are you holding onto anger about a situation or person?  Have you considered the toll that anger, even if humanly justified, is taking on your heart, your relationships, and your life? Have you tried to convince yourself that you have a right to be angry, and therefore your anger is not sin? 

If you answered yes to any of the questions, please know that you are not alone.  Life is hard, but we don't have to get hard with it - yet, prolonged anger, fueled by unforgiveness, makes our hearts hard. 

If you would like for me to pray for you today with respect to anger you are struggling with, please leave a comment ON MY BLOG. 

Anger is not a fun subject to talk about, but is a subject that Christians cannot ignore if we are serious about our relationship with Christ. The first step towards overcoming our anger is admitting that we are struggling with it. Through admission of our weakness, He can begin working powerfully in our heart, and in the circumstances or people that have hurt us.

Pray about these verses above for the next couple days, and on Wednesday, I will offer 5 suggestions on "how" to handle anger from God's perspective.  

Hugs.








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Friday, May 4, 2012

Will You Be An Earth Angel?

In August 2007, I stepped off the bus after a long ride up the mountain, and breathed in the cool, smoky air of Quito, Ecuador.

I watched intently as dozens of Ecuadorian children excitedly lined up to meet their American guests, while standing behind the iron gates with looks of nervous anticipation and inquisitive eyes. They stood there in fancy, hand made outfits - the girls wearing bright colored dresses with hand stitched aprons and headbands; the boys wearing little black pants and white shirts.



Although every child was precious, nothing compares to the first time I laid eyes on my little sponsored child. His name was Marlon, and up until that moment, he had merely been a face on a picture of a sponsorship envelope.

As the program began, the leaders began connecting us with our sponsored children.

They called my name out and I walked towards the center of the yard. As they introduced me as Marlon's sponsor, I saw a dark haired little boy come out from behind the crowd, and scurry across the gravel yard, puckering up his lips the whole time, and leaned up to shower me with sweet kisses. I got the impression his mommy had prepped him intently on how to greet me, but it was precious, regardless.

He then wrapped his little arms around me, and hugged me tightly, as if he had known me forever. I will never forget the softness of his skin and the look in his eyes; eyes that were barely old enough to really know what was going on, but that had already seen harder times than some of us would ever see.

For the next couple hours, we each had the opportunity to spend time with our sponsored child, and give him or her the special gifts we had brought for them.

Marlon happily played with the matchbox cars I had given him, and scooted the Spiderman action figure up and down the pole of the rusted, broken swing set. Although he wasn’t interested in the new clothes, I knew they were much needed and his mom was thankful.

After a while, the time came when we had to leave. A lot of tears and prayers had already been shed that day, but saying goodbye tore at my heartstrings the most, for I knew that meeting Marlon and his mom was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Before we departed, Marlon’s mother, Mada, grabbed me and an interpreter by the hand, and asked if she could pray for me. I stood there with my head bowed and eyes closed, holding hands with this sweet lady and her child. I intently listening as the interpreter translated Mada’s precious words to me in prayer, and tears streamed down my face.

She cried out a heartfelt prayer, but one statement that she said has stuck out in my heart and mind ever since – she graciously thanked God for sending me to her family, and said that I was a beautiful angel who genuinely cared for the well being of her and her little boy.

Wait a minute.....me – an angel? I think not. Of all the words that I could use to describe myself, “angel” would not make the list. Although I do wear a lot of hats in my every day life, a halo has never been one of them.

The official definition of an angel is: “A typically benevolent celestial being that acts as an intermediary between heaven and earth”.

Obviously no human can be a "celestial being", but I do believe that we can allow God to use us to perform intermediary acts for people that are here on earth – in other words, we can be an earth angel.

God gives us all plenty of opportunities to be earth angels, but we have to choose to wear that hat (aka, halo) and say yes to God.

As I walked through the iron gates to head back towards the bus which would take us back to our Ecuador hotel, I heard Marlon’s soft voice above the crowd. He was sprinting across the yard, excitedly waving at me, yelling “Adios! Adios!”

Tears again filled my eyes, as I suddenly felt as if I was losing a family member. A little boy whom I had never met until that day, and would probably never get to see in person again, had become someone that my heart would long for for years to come.

Unfortunately, Marlon's family dropped out of the Compassion International program about a year ago, and last year we picked a new child so sponsor - named Joe. We have received so many sweet letters from him, and have enjoyed getting to know him and his family. Maybe God will give us the opportunity to meet him in person one day too, but until then, we will love and pray for him from afar.

I feel so privileged that God has allowed me to be his earth angel, from thousands of miles away, and it is has been such a blessing to my whole family.

This is a wonderful time of year to begin thinking about how you can be an earth angel. In fact, I am sponsoring a Compassion Sunday event at my home church this weekend, and excited to see new faces going home with fellow church members.

You could consider sponsoring a child for $38 per month through Compassion. Just click on the link on the right sidebar of my blog and you will be amazed at the sweet faces peering back at you. Faces that need an earth angel.

If you are unable to do that right now, or if you already sponsor a child, ask God to show you how you can be an earth angel in your own neighborhood, community, church or school. This world can never have too many angels.

Matthew 25:40 ..... ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

If God lays it on your heart to sponsor a child, please comment and let me know! I would love to celebrate with you and pray for you! 
 
(to see additional pictures from my trip to Ecuador, visit my Facebook page and click on the album titled Compassion International Trip) 

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When Faith Seems Unrewarded

She sat on the edge of her chair directly across from me. Her eyes were locked on mine, hands tightly clenched in her lap.  I could almost see the toxic mixture of emotions swirling through her heart and mind, evidenced by the scared expression on her pale, young face.

As I broke the news to her, her face became blank, and her body froze with fear, anxiety, and worry. We sat in silence, and it felt as if time stood still while she tried to process the fact that her life would never be the same again.

A few months prior to this moment, she had turned her life around. She had recommitted her heart to Christ and had made a commitment to transform her life into one focused on Him. For the first time in her life, she felt like she had a purpose, a plan and a future - because her faith was strong.

But on this particular day, everything changed. She had come into the Pregnancy Resource Center where I volunteer, seeking a pregnancy test, and her worst fears were confirmed.

My heart was breaking as I witnessed the battle between good and evil coursing through her veins like wildfire. So many thoughts and questions fighting for her attention. Trying to hold back tears and grasp what this meant for her future. Weighted down by the heavy fear of judgement and shame which made even breathing seem like effort. Knowing that abortion was out of the question, yet secretly and ashamedly wishing the pregnancy would just go away.

But most of all, confused why God allowed this to happen, considering the fact that she had changed, was transformed, and been made new in Christ. She had made sacrifices for Christ, including ending ungodly relationships, and had committed to living a life that glorified Him, at all costs.  Yet now, it all seemed futile, since mistakes made before her faith transformation were now threatening to steal her future.

It seemed her profound faith was going unrewarded - as if God had not noticed her transformation. As if He had overlooked all her efforts to live a Christ-centered life.

Yet, the longer we talked, the more we were able to work through the details of the situation and try to step outside of the box of fear, and into the Presence of God.

I gently reminded her that although this pregnancy was a surprise to her, it was not a surprise to God, and He had been preparing her heart for months. He knew she would be faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and He had been passionately pursuing her, all the while equipping her to face this problem head on. He had infused her spirit with a strength and courage to persevere through this trial - traits that she would have never been able to have on her own.

Godly character traits that compelled her to choose life for her unborn child, which she may not have otherwise chosen, resulting in a decision that would have altered the course of her life. God had prepared her heart for such a time as this, and now He was calling her to trust Him, in faith.

We prayed and parted ways, and as I watched her walk out the door into a world which held many unknowns, I was reminded of how much I am like this young woman. How much we are all like her.

Faced with problems that seem insurmountable; circumstances that seem beyond understanding; issues that feel too heavy to carry; and hopelessness that takes our breath away.

Faced with wondering "why". Why has God allowed pain; why has God not protected us from hardship; and why is our faith and our commitment to Him going seemingly unnoticed, or unrewarded.

Psalm 139:1-2 says "O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away."  (NLT)

Even if we don't voice these questions aloud, God knows we struggle with understanding His ways, and what peace it brings knowing that He lovingly understands. 

Doubts will always come in a broken world, but God's desire is to replace our fear with faith. Our hopelessness, with hope. Our pain with purpose.  

Romans 8:26-28 (The Message Bible)   "Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."
 
This young woman I met with was not only faced with a physical condition of pregnancy, but a spiritual condition of being pregnant with overwhelming fears and doubts -  a condition that we all struggle with when we face difficult circumstances that weave themselves in our lives.

But in the midst of our "pregnancy", God longs to pulls us closer to Him - whether we are suffering the consequences of our own mistakes, or trying to balance the varying hardships of life which were beyond our control.

He is working in even the worst of situations and can use them for His glory; turning what the enemy intended for bad, into good.  A good that is far beyond our understanding, but within reach if we trust in God's promises, because God always rewards faith with blessing.

James 1:12  "God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (NLT)


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